The lawyer for parents suing the state over English learner skills has made an offer to settle the 15-year-old case.
Attorney Tim Hogan told Capitol Media Services on Tuesday that he presented lawyers for both the Legislature and Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Horne a deal to have the state pay more to educate these students than the law now provides.
Federal law requires public schools to ensure students are proficient in English.
No one would provide specifics about the deal, but Hogan suggested it could be based on a bill approved by lawmakers last year.
The state gives schools about $360 extra per year for each of the 135,000 or so youngsters who are English language learners, but U.S. District Judge Raner Collins said that isn’t enough money.
Last year, lawmakers approved increasing the amount to $432.
Collins rejected it, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later ordered the judge to reconsider it within the scope of current conditions in Arizona schools, not what they were seven years ago when another judge found the state in violation of federal law.
A four-day hearing over the matter began Tuesday in Tucson.
Last year’s legislation was a starting point for negotiations, Hogan said.
He said, though, that the Legislature’s attorneys weren’t interested in cutting a deal until Collins last week rejected a request to delay this week’s hearing.
That’s when David Cantelme, who represents the Legislature, “asked me to
put something in writing and get it to him,” Hogan said.
He would not disclose what he gave to Cantelme.
Hogan said he wants some of the original bill’s conditions to be dropped.
For example, the bill said schools could get extra money only after they exhausted other sources, such as federal grants.
Hogan said he believes he can prove the state must spend more than $1,000 per student, a figure that, if the judge agrees, could cost the state $170 million or more a year. Horne declined to discuss the specifics of the deal.